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President, CS Rotich still tight-lipped over fuel levy

James Momanyi and Mercy Mwai @PeopleDailyKe

Days after President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in the country from China, the executive and Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich have remained tight-lipped over the outcome of the discussion on the fate of the unpopular 16 per cent VAT on petroleum products.

Since his quiet return to the country on Sunday amid uproar over the tax, expected to raise living standard of Kenyans, Uhuru has not publicly uttered a word about the tax issue.

Yesterday, Rotich only hinted that ongoing consultations have been trying to review the tax and urged Kenyans to expect a “positive” outcome.

“Consultations are going on and we are looking at options of reviewing it. We are at the final stages. We will be informing Kenyans shortly on the final decision. Let me not pre-empt what we are currently discussing but I will tell you it’s going to be positive for Kenyans,” said Rotich.

However, the CS added a rider that Kenyans should “tighten their belts” to fund the current Sh2.8 trillion budget which already has a deficit financing of about Sh630 billion.

“Most importantly, Kenyans should know that we are becoming a country that funds programmes on its own going forward,” he said.

This implies ongoing consultations could be considering how Treasury will bridge the Sh35 billion deficit gap in the event the President assents to the Finance Bill 2018 which will suspend the 16 per cent VAT tax for another two years.

Alternatively, the President can return the Bill to Parliament with proposals for the House to cut on some budget items or review the Bill by introducing measures to widen the tax base or raid other sectors with more taxes.

But it appears Kenyans will have to wait longer to know the fate of the16 per cent VAT tax on petroleum products after it emerged that Parliament had not forwarded the Finance Bill 2018 to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

It was, however, confirmed by the head of Presidents Strategic Communication Unit Kanze Dena, in a tweet, that that the Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi delivered the Vellum on The Financial Bill (National Assembly Bill No. 20 of 2018) for consideration by President.

14 days countdown

This came even after a section of Members of Parliament had accused Muturi and the leadership of the House of failing to present the Bill to Uhuru yet two weeks had lapsed since the Bill was passed by the House.

By law, the Head of State is obligated to assent to a Bill within 14 days once it is submitted to him by the House. Speaking in his office Minority leader John Mbadi had said it was regrettable the Bill was yet to reach Uhuru’s desk despite the clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai assuring him that they had completed all the preparation, one week after it was passed by the House.

He had said Sialai’s office had assured him that the Bill was no longer in his office as it had been forwarded to the Speaker’s office.

“It is dishonest, unfair for Parliament to sit on the Bill. I want to ask the Speaker to submit the Bill as soon as this evening so that the President can assent to it or return it to Parliament with amendments,” Mbadi had said.

“The President’s silence on a matter of such great importance to Kenyans leaves a lot to be desired,” said Homa Bay County MP Gladys Wanga.

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